Close this search box.

Voices Rising
For Janice Mirikitani

By Marvin K. White

The ways we find and come into voice
are uniquely timed to each of us.

You can come out the womb kicking and screaming,
but you can also come out eyes wise-open
and mouth twisted and pursed.

Your adolescence can be filled with hands raised,
limp wrists and speaking truth to 9th grade injustices.

Or it could have been eked out along
the margins of the hallway lockers
that some of us inched along unheard
until choir practice.

Some, in our adulthood, sit sangha
within our communities of stillness and smallness
until we find our soul’s volume button
and begin to turn up from there.

It can be startling and it can be enlightening,
or it can be gradual and smooth.
It can be a crescendo.

There are others like you
who came into voice through noise,
through the din, the yell, and the roar.
Some cussed before they conjugated.


Tonight, you must find your tone and tenor
in the midst of drowning voices.
You have brass, you cry out loud,
and rehearse your songs out loud.
You must your truth and your voice interrogated
and it still has not cracked.


Some of you are prophets.
All of you are prophets.


I say all of this beloved,
to assure you that your voice is heard and recorded.
The universe has a queer ear.
It is reshaping itself to your voices.
The universe has a song,
And you are expanding its range for you.

The stars cup their ears to the universe,
and hear your voice.
And they cry,
like the first time they spoke and heard, felt and tasted,
smelled and saw poetry.

Janice Mirikitani would tell you,
It does not require mouth pieces, punditry, or prattle.
It requires the quiet ones,
and the loud ones to meet in the middle of the page.

It requires us—
black and white,
straight and gay,
young and old,
blue and white collar,
academic and artist,
rich and poor,
blue and red,
citizen and stranger,
activist and clicktivist,
housed and unhoused—
It requires us
to know that if we come into poem,
raise our voices together,
that there is a greater likelihood that we will be heard.

It requires the “to and fro” of dissent and protest song,
to pass the torch to the “back and forth” of consent and writing.
It requires the lullabies of peace,
and the ring shouts of injustice,
to move in and out of each other.
It requires that you do nothing,
but speak your truth and sing your heart out,
however, it comes to you,
and however it comes out of your mouth.